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DID YOU READ

15 observations on the Sundance line-up.

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12042008_manure.jpgThe U.S. and world competition line-ups are here; the premieres and sidebars are here.

Documentary Competition:

1. Sundance often leans toward the documentary-as-journalism/vehicle for activism, and, from the descriptions, there’s again plenty of that this year: Joe Berlinger (going solo!) has “Crude” is “the inside story of the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ case in the rainforest of Ecuador”; “Dirt! The Movie” is about “how humans are rapidly destroying the last natural resource on earth”; “The Cove” follows “a group of activists led by Ric O’Barry, the man behind Flipper” as they look into environmental horrors in a small cove in Japan.

2. Tom DiCillo, of “Johnny Suede” and “Living in Oblivion,” has made a Doors documentary?!

Dramatic Competition:

3. John Krasinski’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” has the burden/advantage of the recent and terrible death of David Foster Wallace going for it. The description: “When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior.” I don’t doubt that Krasinski’s smart, but shaping DFW’s narrative-free monologuey short stories into a highly Sundancey framing story doesn’t sound promising. Incidentally, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” was one of last year’s two high-profile lit adaptations (the other being “Choke”), but it was such a dog that no one’s touched it.

4. I thoroughly enjoyed Lynn Shelton’s bromance-gone-bad comedy “My Effortless Brilliance,” and am looking forward to “Humpday” more than anything else in this line-up.

5. I blame the copy, but “Peter and Vandy” sounds like a sillier version of “5×2.”

6. Cary Joji Fukunaga, of “Sin Nombre,” had one of the better shorts to screen at the New York Film Festival a few years ago, 2004’s “Victoria Para Chino.” That short has one of the better IMDb comments attached to it:

It might have been interesting to see the film without subtitles, so that the Mexicans really have their own identity and you have to really pay attention to them. This can be easily accomplished by the viewer, however, by making your hand flat like the horizon, and then putting your horizon hand over the subtitles. This starts to hurt after a while because even though this film is short, you must keep your hand there for the whole time as the whole thing is basically in Spanish.

World Cinema Documentary Competition:

7. In general sounds a bit more interesting than the main doc competish. Take “Afghan Star,” about how “after 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan”; or “Big River Man,” about how “an overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon”; or “Nollywood Babylon,” about Nigeria’s video-based movie industry.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition:

8. Tom Hardy playing a notoriously violent criminal in the new film from the “Pusher” trilogy’s Nicolas Winding Refn? Look righteously nutty — here’s the UK site. “The Clone Returns,” a Japanese feature about an “astronaut who dies during a mission is subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home,” and a “An Education,” a Nick Hornby-scripted drama directed by “Italian for Beginners”‘ Lone Scherfig seem promising.

Premieres:

9. “500 Days of Summer” wins the prize for most Sundance movie summation: “When an unlucky greeting card copywriter is dumped by his girlfriend, the hopeless romantic shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days ‘together’ in hopes of figuring out where things went wrong.”

10. Antoine Fuqua?

12. The fact that “I Love You Philip Morris” is written/directed by the screenwriters of “Bad Santa” makes me think it might actually be as good as I’d like it to be. Meanwhile, is “Manure” a return to form for the Polish brothers? The stills look marvelously “Northfork”esque.

13. Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal play brothers in “Rudo and Cursi,” the feature debut of Alfonso Cuarón;s brother Carlos, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Y tu mamá también.” So they’re probably not going to make out this time.

Spectrum:

14. Bobcat Goldthwait, yay!

Midnight:

15. There’s something a little off about putting Lil’ Wayne doc “The Carter” in this line-up alongside a Nazi-zombie movie (“Dead Snow”) and a vampire baby one (“Grace”), no?

Early themespotting:

“Big River Man” + “Against the Current” = Distance swimming.

“Boy Interrupted” + “El General” + “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” + “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” = Docs about someone in the filmmaker’s family.

“Moon” + “The Clone Returns” = Sad astronauts.

“Shrink” + “Helen” + “Once More with Feeling” = Sad psychiatrists.

“211:Anna” + “Reporter” + “Burma VJ” = Heroic journalists.

“The Reckoning” + “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” + “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” + “The Anarchist’s Wife” = Heroic lawyers.

[Photo: “Manure,” Prohibition Pictures, 2009]

+ 2009 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FILMS IN COMPETITION (Sundance.org)
+ 2009 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FILMS IN THE PREMIERES, SPECTRUM, NEW FRONTIER AND PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT SECTIONS (Sundance.org)

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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